Bedford learn some home truths

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The Independent Online
Newcastle 49 Bedford 12

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was laid bare in front of Kingston Park's biggest crowd of the season as Newcastle continued their seemingly unstoppable march to the Second Division title. Bedford were left only with the consolation of a couple of home truths.

First, Bedford know now, if they did not beforehand, how much they need to improve to make the play-offs if a return to the First Division after a seven-season absence is to become reality, never mind displace Richmond or Coventry in the race to the second guaranteed promotion place.

Secondly, if Bedford's director of rugby, Geoff Cooke, continues to recruit as adroitly as he did when persuading Scott Murray to move from Edinburgh to Goldington Road, Bedford may sustain their hopes of advancement. Murray had a magnificent match in Bedford's second row, and his home debut for Scotland A, against Australia in the opening tour match at Gala on Wednesday, will be eagerly watched by the national selectors.

The truth is one man does not make a front five and, despite Murray's efforts, Newcastle held the edge up front. They were invariably a foot or two closer to the breakdown and a yard quicker on the break. Newcastle are way ahead of the chasers, and it would take a much better side than Bedford to beat them. They would not be overawed in the European Cup and are already strong enough to compete with the best in England's First Division.

Now the unproved truth. Are the rugby league players coming back into the union game worth the hassle? After all, most of them are contractually required to return to their league clubs next February. Mike Pechey was drafted into Bedford's team 15 minutes before the start despite the RFU's insistence that he was ineligible. Bedford took legal advice on the Department of Employment's apparent refusal to allow the former Widnes centre a permit to play union.

Right or wrong, Pechey - like Martin Offiah outside him - had little influence on the outcome; both played peripheral parts. But ex-Halifax wing John Bentley, who bustled his way to one of Newcastle's seven tries, did, although the real impact lay with the union men, who scored the other six (including a penalty try); whatever the fashion for including league players on a short-term basis.

Newcastle: Tries Tetlow, Blyth, Armstrong, Archer, Bentley, Stimpson, penalty try; Conversions Andrew 3, Stimpson; Penalties Andrew 2. Bedford: Tries Rayer, Whetstone; Conversion Rayer.

Newcastle: T Stimpson; J Bentley, A Blyth, M Tetlow, M Shaw; R Andrew, G Armstrong; N Popplewell, R Nesdale, G Graham (P Van-Zandvliet, 79), G Archer, D Weir, P Walton, S O'Neill, D Ryan (capt).

Bedford: M Rayer; P Hewitt, B Whetstone, M Pechey, M Offiah; P Turner (capt), J Farr; S Brown, P Simmonds, J Probyn, M Upex, S Murray, R White, J Paramore, R Winters.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm).

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